With Daniels Out, GOP’s Best Bet Is ...

Additionally, if nominated, Romney must pick a running mate who will please conservatives.  That someone is Rep. Allen West.

Sure, West is only a first-term congressman. But Americans want an outsider, a Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington kind of guy. Allen West is just that. He’s a retired Army lieutenant colonel, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, with as sharp of a mind as there is in Congress. He’s a conservative’s conservative; a tea-party favorite. But he cannot be smeared as a radical kook. He’s from swing state Florida -- and Florida, remarkably, has never had a candidate on a national ticket. West is also black (not that it matters, but to some, it does). Far from the liberal caricature, we live in a country where that is, by far, a net gain -- especially for a black conservative.

Allen West speaks with authority like nobody else in politics. Sometimes his rhetoric on his military service can be self-congratulatory, almost Pattonesque. And that’s slightly cliché in some corners of 2011 America. But it’s not insincere. One listens to him speak and it is evident that they are listening to a leader. West is a man for these times.

Most interestingly -- and importantly, to me -- West understands the true nature of the Islamist adversary and has not bought into the “cult of counterinsurgency” when it comes to military operations.  “We have to get away from occupation, nation-building style warfare,” he said last November.  Yes!

And listen to him speak on the enemy. They are not perverting their holy texts, he insists. They are heeding them. More yes! Politically incorrect, no doubt. But true, unafraid, and rooted in reality. Allen West is one of the few politicians in the country who has challenged the Council on American-Islamic Relations for its ties to terrorism. He understands the full scope and scale of the fight ahead. But with that in mind, he is nevertheless committed to avoiding attritional, unending, unwinnable wars.

Romney-West can stand toe-to-toe with Obama-Biden in the debates, on foreign and economic policy, on substance, on style, and with the general electorate. With the 24-hour news cycle and viral video exposure, vice presidential running mates matter more nowadays. They don’t come much better than Allen West. Romney, the electable-establishment candidate, and West, the tea-party war-vet rock star, complement each other very well.  Together, they would be the toughest GOP ticket to beat in the 2012 election.